Visuelle Kommunikation



Lin Lin

What Do You See?
A Visual Study About Space Created by Light and Shadow


This project is an investigation of visualizing space created by light and casting shadow with motion. The “mysteriousness” of shadow is closely linked to evoking silence and awe. For Louis Kahn, while darkness evokes the uncertainty of not being able to see, of potential dangers, it also inspires deep mystery. This thesis focuses on highlighting light and casting shadow behavior, in particular, by looking at a space, which is gradually changing by the moving light and casting shadow. It exposes different visual ways to the viewer while questioning how light and casting shadow affect the way of seeing a space. Hence, attempting to evoke the onlooker value the ambient surrounding space.

In the legend, painting began when a Corinthian maiden outlined her departing lover’s shadow on a wall. Ever since Renaissance­, when the representation of the visual world of three dimensions again became a task for painting, the problem of representing light, and the shadow caused when an object impedes the path of light, became increasingly important.
Light; it is the first thing that captures your eye after you are born and it is often the last thing you see when you take your last breath. Light makes humans, objects, spaces, architecture and everything we see around us visible by its reflection. Physically, the light from the sun is vital for our existence. Visually, light on objects helps create the illusion of form and depth. Shadows cast by one object onto another make the objects seem to stand out, and help us to locate them in space. Cast shadows also give clues to the shape, direction and relative distance from the eye and the position of the source of light.

However, perception of shadows is often inhibited. It requires a special effort of attention, and the right conditions of illumination. Because the eye adjusts to the brightest light in the field of vision by dilating or contracting the pupil, in very bright daylight it may contract the pupil to a level where enough light is let in to see, but not enough to produce a perceivable contrast of light in what is observed to notice the difference between light and shadow.

“Even a room which must be dark needs at least a crack of light to know how dark it is — Louis Kahn.” Without light, we cannot see, not even darkness. Every day, people are confronted with light and shadow, two elements that are inseparable.
Despite the fact that we are living in a high-speed technique society, people are mostly overwhelmed by the overload of images and information in every minute. Accordingly, we are losing the sense to really take time to perceive things. James Turrell’s works defy the accelerated habits of people, especially when looking at art. He feels that viewers spend so little time with the art that it makes it hard to appreciate. “There is this slow-food movement right now. Maybe we could also have a slow-art movement, and take an hour­ — James Turrell.” I have always been fascinated by James Turrell’s light installations. In my thesis, I refer to his work, exploring in motion to reveal from the mysterious shadowed scene to high contrast exposure by dominating the light source.

The project exploration has been approached by using the sense of ambiguity and mystery while analyzing what kind of visualization and sense of emotion light and casting shadow could create. Applying everyday objects such as office paper to the motion under the similar condition of light, in order to compare and distinguish the specific moment/visual space. Furthermore, combing a minimalist way of cropping with diverse composition. Hence, explore different possibilities of perception. Moreover, play with the sequence of dark, light, dark, light … by adding certain rhythm, thus, having differentiated visual results in graphic design.

What do you see? What is it? How do you perceive it? Besides individual expectations this project invites onlookers to determine the surprising visualization space caused by light and casting shadow. In this way, providing new experiences not only in an esthetic way, but also meaningful.

Lin Lin

Institut Visuelle Kommunikation, FHNW HGK, Freilager-Platz 1, CH-4023 Basel
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